The Waters of Christ

The Waters of Christ

The Waters of Christ.

“On the last day, the great day of the Festival, Jesus stood and cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!'”  (John 7:37-38, NJB)

This is biblical theater at its best, so the scene deserves to be set. There are tens of thousands of faithful Jews in Jerusalem, on the last and most important day of the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles. And what’s the one thing on everyone’s mind as they gather to celebrate this festival? WATER. It seems that Jesus couldn’t let this opportunity pass.

  • They are literally praying for water. If God didn’t bring the “early rains” of October and November, there would be no spring crops, which is crucial to their livelihood. Without the rains, the fields will be thirsty with less irrigation, and the people will be thirsty too with less fresh water.
  • The gathered faithful were excited to witness the Water-Libation ceremony, in which the high priest walks from the Temple to the pool of Siloam carrying a golden pitcher, the crowd following him as he walks. He then dips the pitcher into the burbling pool for some “living water,” and then proceeds to return to the Temple, leading the people once again, where he pours the water onto the altar. This is an ancient tradition, and is a popular part of the public service in the Temple.
  • This water ceremony is intended to commemorate the famous Mosaic water miracle of Exodus 17, in which Moses strikes the rock chosen by God, and out from the rock pours fresh water for the thirsty wanderers to drink… An historic example of God providing fresh water for the faithful.
  • During the water ceremony at the Temple, the people, led by the priests, chanted various scripture passages foretelling life-giving water, passages from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and other books from the Hebrew Bible. In their chants they always included Isaiah 12:3:  “And you shall draw water with rejoicing from the spring of salvation.”
  • Once the water is poured onto the altar, a Temple choir begins to sing the messianic Psalm 118. Messianic fervor was at a fever pitch during this most important day, because scripture tells over and over again of an abundance of water during the messianic era. All the people could think about was the coming of the Messiah and the water that would surely accompany his arrival, providing life and blessing for all people and living creatures and crops.

It was just as the water ceremony was reaching a climax on this last day of the Feast when a young man from Galilee stood up, got everybody’s attention as he interrupted the water ritual, and shouted for all to hear something suspiciously like Isaiah 55:1, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! For as scripture says, ‘From his heart shall flow streams of living water!”

All eyes were on this man Jesus, everyone present turning their attention from the priests officiating the Temple service. Who does this young man think he is, disrupting this important ceremony. Is he claiming to be the Messiah, our source of living water? Is he really claiming to be the rock out of which gushes fresh water?

If Jesus wanted to make a scene, if he wanted to create some drama, he certainly succeeded. The people weren’t sure what to make of this, they were divided about who this man was. But the priests were of one mind. They were furious, offended, their authority challenged by this man who claims to be the source of life and blessing, the one who will send his Spirit out, in fulfillment of Isaiah 44:3-4.

Could Jesus have made this any clearer? At the most dramatic moment of the Feast, he pronounces himself to be the only one who can satisfy our yearning for God, the only one who can quench our spiritual thirst. Jesus states here that he is the one who is the source of living water that will flow through eternity. He is claiming here that streams of living water gush from him, the only spiritual Rock providing fresh water to replenish our spirits, providing the Holy Spirit to renew our souls.

Jesus clearly fulfilled Jeremiah’s word that God was a “fountain of living water” (Jer. 2:13 and 17:13). With much kindness, Jesus repeats that thought to the woman at the well in John 4: “No one who drinks the water that I shall give him will ever be thirsty again; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up for eternal life.” Jesus flatly offered that woman “the drink that conquers time” (Kenneth Bailey). If you are looking to satisfy your thirst for God, you need look no further than the Spirit of Jesus, the living fountain.

(The following passages are all centered on the waters of Christ,  and are quoted from the New Jerusalem Bible).

“How precious, God, is your faithful love. The children of Adam take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the bounty of your house, you let them drink from your delicious streams; in you is the source (the fountain) of life.” (Ps. 36:7-9).

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Ps. 42:1-2).

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps. 63:1).

“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy, for water will gush in the desert and streams in the wastelands, the parched ground will become a marsh and the thirsty land springs of water.” (Isaiah 35:5-7).

“The oppressed and needy search for water, and there is none, their tongue is parched with thirst. I, Yahweh, shall answer them, I the God of Israel, shall not abandon them. I shall open up rivers on barren heights and water-holes down in the ravines; I shall turn the dry ground into a lake and dry ground into springs of water.” (Isaiah 41:17-18).

“For I shall pour out water on the thirsty soil and streams on the dry ground. I shall pour out my spirit on your descendants, my blessing on your offspring, and they will spring up among the grass, like willows on the banks of a stream.” (Isaiah 44:3-4).

“They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water.” (Isaiah 49: 10).

“O, come to the water all you who are thirsty.” (Isaiah 55:1).

“For my people have committed two crimes: they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug water-tanks for themselves, cracked water-tanks that hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13).

“Those who turn from you will be registered in the underworld, since they have abandoned Yahweh, the fountain of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13).

“In prayer I shall lead them, I shall guide them to streams of water, by a smooth path where they will not stumble. For I am a father to Israel.” (Jeremiah 31:9).

“Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live… Wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows.” (Ezekiel 47:9).

“When the Day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills will flow with milk, and all the stream-beds of Judah will run with water. A fountain will spring from Yahweh’s Temple.” (Joel 4:18).

“When that Day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to wash sin and impurity away.” (Zechariah 13:1).

“When that Day comes, living waters will issue from Jerusalem… Yahweh will become king of the whole world. When that Day comes, Yahweh will be the one and only, and his name the one name.” (Zechariah 14:18).

“No one who drinks the water that I shall give him will ever be thirsty again; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up for eternal life.” (John 4:14).

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.” (Revelation 7:17).

“Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and flowing crystal-clear.” (Revelation 22:1).

“The Spirit and the Bride say, Come! Let everyone who listens answer, Come! Then let all who are thirsty come: All who want it may have the water of life and have it free.” (Revelation 22:17).

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